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Communication disorders among the most common childhood disabilities

By Mary Helton • May 14, 2018 at 11:00 AM

With 11 percent of children ages 3 to 6 having a speech, language, voice, or swallowing disorder — and almost 15 percent of school-age children experiencing some degree of hearing loss — communication disorders are among the most common disabilities in children nationwide.

During May, which is Better Hearing & Speech Month, our team of Fisher-Titus audiologists and speech-language pathologists at the Ralph and Alice Walcher Rehabilitation Center urge families to learn the early signs of these disorders and seek an assessment if they have concerns.

Communication disorders are treatable, yet all too often, we find parents are waiting longer than we’d like to bring their child in for an evaluation. Timely intervention is important, as untreated speech/language and hearing disorders can lead to problems with reading and writing, academic success, social interactions, behavioral problems, and more. These disorders are highly correctable and, in some cases, can be reversed or even prevented. So, our message to parents is: If you have any concern, don’t wait and see if there is a change. Trust your instincts, and get it checked out.

Hearing loss is evaluated and treated by audiologists. Speech and language disorders are different. A person can have problems with one or both. Both disorders are evaluated and treated by speech-language pathologists. Warning signs of these disorders include:

* Language Disorders

* Language refers to words we use and how we use them to share ideas.

* Does not smile or interact with others (birth and older)

* Does not babble (4 to 7 months)

* Makes only a few sounds or gestures, like pointing (7 to 12 months)

* Does not understand what others say (7 months through 2 years)

* Says only a few words (12 to 18 months)

* Words are not easily understood (18 months to 2 years)

* Does not put words together to make sentences (1 1/2  to 3 years)

* Has trouble playing and talking with other children (2 to 3 years)

* Has trouble with early reading and writing skills- for example your child may not like to draw or look at books (2 1/2 to 3 years)

* Speech Sound Disorders

* Speech is how we say sounds and words. It includes articulation, voice and fluency.


· Says p, b, m, h, and w incorrectly in words (1 to 2 years)

· Says k, g, f, t, d, and n incorrectly in words (2 to 3 years)

· Produces speech that is unclear, even to familiar people (2 to 3 years)


· Repeats first sounds of words—“b-b-b-ball” for “ball” (2 1/2 to 3 years)

· Speech breaks while trying to say a word (2 1/2 to  3 years)

· Stretches sounds out—“fff-farm” for “farm” (2 1/2 to 3 years)

· Shows frustration when trying to get words out (2 1/2 to 3 years)

Voice Disorders

· Uses a hoarse or breathy voice

· Uses a nasal-sounding voice

* Hearing Loss

* Shows a lack of attention to sounds (birth to 1 year)

* Does not respond when you call their name (7 months to 1 year)

* Does not follow simple directions (1 to 2 years)

* Shows delays in speech and language development (birth to 3 years)

* Pulls or scratches at their ears

* Has difficulty achieving academically, especially in reading and math

* Is socially isolated and unhappy at school

* Has persistent ear discomfort after exposure to loud noise (regular and constant listening to electronics at high volumes)

Families can learn more about these signs and get tips for helping their child at http://IdentifytheSigns.org. Locally, our highly skilled Pediatric Therapy team provides assessments and screenings for communication disorders. For more information, please visit fishertitus.org or call 419-660-2700.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Mary Helton, who is a speech-language pathologist, is the assistant vice president of ancillary services at Fisher-Titus.

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